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Sabotaging your own brand Part 2 – Your Product Focus

August 12, 2008

Would you buy an $80 rice cooker made by the aircraft manufacturer Boeing?

Okay, Boeing doesn’t make rice cookers but believe it or not, at least one brand has the same name stamped on their executive jets and rice cookers. While there’s nothing wrong with diversifying, there’s something inherently disturbing about buying a loaf of bread bearing the label American Standard, the company that makes urinals and toilet bowls. Thank goodness they’re not into food. At least not the last time I checked.

After a few costly blunders, most companies gather enough intuition to keep focused. They understand that the human mind is narrow. It can associate one brand with only one unique category of things. Mention any category – luxury car, cellphone operator, supermarket, expensive coffee, tv station, and one brand will automatically pop into your mind. That’s the result of brand positioning. Companies pay billions to position their brand on the top shelf in your mind, advertising being one of them.

What companies also do is to spend billions more to knock it off the shelf, unintentionally. Naming a product after someone immensely unpopular is a good way, like how presidential hopeful McCain spent millions burnishing his image only to blow it with a photo of him hugging Bush, whose popularity among Americans is polled at its lowest ever. Or expecting a successful down-market brand to be equally successful when slapped onto an upmarket product.

I come across these hypothetical questions all the time. Would I buy a $500,000 bike from Vespa? Or a $40,000 car from Ferrari? Is discount surgery a good idea? We produce logic chips but lately we’re thinking of venturing into canned drinks. Why can’t we use our successful brand on it?

If you are succeeding in one niche, perhaps as the top name in pizza delivery, please, don’t screw it up by opening up an exclusive 5-star dining establishment by the same name. Or if you’re the top name in fine dining, please don’t do something silly like putting your brand on an economy rice franchise. And for heavens sake don’t name your daughter’s new boutique after your car repair workshop, no matter how successful your workshop may be. Use a different name if you have to.

There is an order to madness.

Sabotaging your own brand Part 1 – Customer Service

3 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    August 12, 2008 11:38 am

    …Like calling your pedigree Golden Retriever ‘Skunk’?

  2. Damien permalink*
    August 13, 2008 8:20 am

    Yeah, altho u won’t lose anything if Skunk actually smells like roses. Its the millions of $$ companies lose on perfectly good products they misbrand. I would be skeptical of the success of Intel or AMD brand curry puffs if it ever hit the streets of Penang. A basic law of branding.

  3. LC Teh permalink
    August 13, 2008 11:31 am

    Hahaha… they’ll have to make those curry puffs shaped like memory chips then.

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